Le Pantalon Fantaisie is a small but chic dining establishment. Crisp white tablecloths fall artfully across tables so simple in design that you just know they must be expensive. Likewise with the cutlery and glassware; so simple and precise and exuding expense. In my waiter’s garb, order pad in hand, I don’t mind admitting to feeling incredibly nervous in such a place. I have the poise and grace of a baby giraffe and there is no doubt in my mind that something delicate will meet a crashing demise before the night is out.
This is different to being around the antiquities of Old College. The ancient musty artifacts are not merely expensive, but priceless. The two things are completely different. I have no doubt the proprietors of Le Pantalon Fantaisie will have no problem with putting a price on a smashed glass.
A pianist gently teases a tune from the immaculate baby grand by the bay windows, bathed in the flattering light of a glittering candelabra. So swathed in sophistication is the ambience that I barely even dare to breath the air.
Head Porter looks over his shoulder at me and Professor Duke. He is seated at a dainty little table for two, his arm hanging languidly across the high-backed chair. Looking surprisingly relaxed, he shoots us a smouldering wink, which is returned by an uncertain thumbs up from the Professor.
“He’s looking confident,” I remark.
“He is,” the Professor replies. “And that’s got me a bit nervous, the sudden. I mean, a confident Head Porter can make mistakes, don’t you know. But, I did coach the beast. I hope you weren’t doubting my coaching.”
“Not for a minute, Sir” I lie. Although, I hate to admit it – I have never seen Head Porter so at ease with himself and he did a fine job of charming The Master’s Wife earlier. Perhaps my top hatted friend does have a few tricks tucked up his sleeves after all.
Alas, the top hat has been relegated to rooms this evening as the Professor is also dressed as a waiter and he hasn’t stopped complaining about it all evening. However, he does seem rather taken with one element of his outfit.
“Well, the loss of the top hat is okay, for just look at my new shoes!” he proffers an elegantly clad foot, polished so highly I can see infinity in his toes. “These monsters are more shiny than a goat’s horns! And this is pretty neatio: I’ve found a great use for these shiny things. They’re so shiny I can see under tables, around corners, around tables, and under corners…wait, that doesn’t work. But the thing is, I can see things that I probably shouldn’t see. For example, this professor saw, the sudden, that there was some pink gum stuck under that chair over there.”
“Gosh, that is quite something” I reply, already worried about how he might deploy this new-found ability.
Before I can worry too much, I notice the concierge welcoming a female guest into the dining room. She is not only a female but clearly also a lady. Only a few delicate creases about her smiling eyes give a hint of her age; she is curvaceous without being obvious about it and dressed impeccably if not a little unusually. Her beaming features are crowned with a flirty bobbed haircut which bounces as she moves.
This must be her.
Head Porter must be thinking the same thing as he rises from his chair in anticipation. I have only the smallest of concern that this is not the usual type of woman to whom Head Porter has previously turned his fumbling attentions. She exudes the sort of confidence that only experience and intelligence can bring and will require an entirely different approach to the flighty crazy ladies he usually approaches. And perhaps that is absolutely perfect.
Once delivered to the table, The Headmistress greets our Romeo warmly and they sit down to begin polite conversation. We are too far away to hear exactly what is going on, so the Professor and I casually find a more suitable loitering place nearby. Feeling rather awkward, I make a poor attempt at hiding behind my order pad. Still, at least I am closer to hand in case of disaster.
“This is really is a wonderful place,” says The Headmistress, her voice having the firmness you might expect, yet with an underlying cheekiness that you might not. “I have been taking an evening class in French poetry, so this really is most appropriate.”
“Oh, really?” Head Porter replies. “Now, that is very interesting. I have something of an interest in poetry myself…”
This is a red flag for me. Head Porter’s poetry recitals have been mainly limited to saucy limericks and bawdy rugby chants. I furiously scratch my ear with my pen, the prearranged signal to indicate impending doom. The Professor nods and moves swiftly into position.
“Hey, have you two thought of something you want to drink? No worries if not; it always takes me a time times a time to choose, see.”
Head Porter is brilliantly distracted and fumbles anxiously for the wine list.
“I’ll have a glass of Prosecco,” The Headmistress announces brightly.
“Whoa. That sounds like something. And for you, my man—my sir, I mean?”
Head Porter scans the wine list. I can see it is written in French, which might prove a challenge. But then he has a brilliant idea.
“What would you recommend, waiter?”
Professor Duke falters for a second before regaining his composure quite valiantly. He leans across Head Porter and jabs at the wine list with his pen.
“That’s a good pick, I think. It’s a bit earthy, but definitely not too wormy. Plus, it’s got a better name than Prosecco.”
“Oh… great, I’ll have that one!”
“Now, tell me more about your interest in poetry,” The Headmistress continues, glancing up at the Professor and no doubt wondering why he isn’t rushing off to collect their drinks.
“Yes! Of course…” Head Porter clears his throat. “Actually, I know a little poem you might like…”
“NO!” the Professor momentarily brings the entire restaurant to a standstill. “I mean… not in here, you don’t. There is no poetry allowed here, I’m afraid.”
“What? No poetry in a French restaurant?” The Headmistress is almost annoyed. “But the French love poetry!”
“We are a different kind of French,” I say, stupidly.
“What kind of French?”
“… French Canadian?”
This isn’t going too well. I always anticipated shenanigans but I didn’t think they would be our fault.
The Professor smacks me sharply on the arm with his order pad.
“Please accept my sincere apologies for my colleague here,” he says to our diners with an easy charm and disarming smile. “She is very new here. Also she has the mind of a child. Please excuse us.”
He grabs me deftly by the arm and marches us both towards the bar. Well, I think that this is highly unfair. He started it.